formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

Oct 20, 2015 Sometimes Wrong is Right

The Liberty Gazette
Oct 20, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Johnny Keown dons his cowboy hat enjoying the gorgeous fall weather as he shares stories about his airline days. We are sitting around a table under the hangar awning at Critters Lodge, a private grass strip in Centerville, Texas, as he chats about another of our friends, A. J. High, who passed away a couple of years ago. They both flew for Texas International Airlines before it became part of Continental Airlines.

One day, Johnny was co-piloting for A.J. on a Convair 600 turbo prop, which is what the airline was flying then, a few decades ago. This airplane is powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart engines, with two big four-bladed props. On this particular trip, en route from Mexico to the United States, as they flew north past Tampico a red light on their instrument panel illuminated. The light’s job was to relay an important message: an impending gearbox failure on one of the engines.

Impending failure. Let that settle in as you imagine the immediate attention and focus required of the flight crew, Johnny and A.J., as they prepared their minds, organized their thoughts, read through emergency checklists, and used their training and years of experience so that the loss of one of the two engines would be handled safely and professionally, without incident.

As the pair were trouble-shooting and discussing shutting down the bad engine, the flight attendant entered the flight deck, informing them that a passenger was having a heart attack.

Johnny and A.J. knew that if they stopped the engine then, their speed to the closest airport – Harlingen – would be greatly reduced and the passenger might not survive all the way to landing. However, if they did not shut down the engine it could, and likely would, fail during flight. The weather and visibility at Harlingen weren’t the best, which would make having the power of both engines that much more important.

Standard procedure dictates shutting down the inoperative engine and relying on the remaining engine for the remainder of the flight. But is standard procedure the best choice in every circumstance? In this circumstance?

Linda: A.J. pressed the radio mic, reported the medical emergency to the Harlingen control tower, and requested an ambulance. Then, he made the difficult decision to keep the faulty engine running. The two pilots hoped both engines would stay healthy and allow them to reach their unplanned diversion swiftly.

The seconds ticked by. The light still illuminated impending failure. But both engines were still running.

Crossing the border they were cleared for the approach and landed at Harlingen, with full operation of both engines.

An ambulance crew picked up the passenger and whisked him off to the hospital. The other passengers deplaned and were put up in a local hotel as repairs were made to the aircraft. The flight attendant took advantage of the maintenance downtime and dashed off to the hospital to check on the sick passenger, whose only hope may have been that choice that was made that went against standard procedure.

"Passengers judge flights and pilots by the landing, not what goes on behind closed cockpit doors. It was a tough decision to make at the time and looking back on it, sometimes what seems to be the wrong thing to do is the right decision," says Johnny. "We did the right thing."

Oct 13, 2015 More FAQs

The Liberty Gazette
Oct 13, 2015

Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

This week we’ll continue with answering a few more frequently asked questions about flying. 

Question: How do you know when you can land at a non-towered (uncontrolled) airport? ​

Answer: No permission required, but for safety and common courtesy we let other pilots know where we are. 

We’ll use our Liberty airport as the example again. Think of a rectangle, with the runway being one of the long sides. That’s the "upwind" side of the rectangle. If we take off and want to stay in the airport traffic pattern, we will turn left to fly the "crosswind" leg about half a mile, then left again to the "downwind" leg, being parallel to the runway, then when we look out at the left wing and see we’re at a 45-degree angle to the end of the runway we’ll turn left again onto the "base" leg for a short distance until we make our last turn to "final", and land. 

During this time we would announce on the airport’s designated radio frequency, our airplane’s N-number and our location and intentions, like this: "Liberty traffic, Grumman 26958, Left Downwind, One-Six. Liberty." One-Six means we’ll be landing in the direction of 160 degrees. Anyone tuned in to the frequency would know where to look for us. We’d be at the expected traffic pattern altitude of 1,000 feet above the ground, flying northbound, about half a mile to the east of the runway. 

Question: Do pilots have to go through regular testing? 

Answer: Yes. Pilots must have a flight review with a certificated flight instructor every two years, or every year if they have a low experience level. 

They also must have regular medical examinations and maintain health standards set forth by the FAA. Airline and commercial charter pilots must train and take a check ride every six months. Pilots flying jets for corporations must train and pass a check every year in at least one of the jets they fly and every two years in all the jets they fly in order to keep flying them. Flight instructors must get re-qualified every two years in order to maintain their instructor qualifications. 

Question: How fast can you go? 

Answer: The speeds of planes range from the very slow, some not even as fast as a car, to military aircraft that fly supersonic. 

The SR-71 Blackbird spy plane flew from Los Angeles to New York in 68 minutes and 17 seconds, slowing down at least once to air-refuel. In 1976 the Blackbird flew at 2,193.2 mph over Edwards Air Force Base, more than three times the speed of sound. Our four-seat, single-engine, piston-powered Grumman Cheetah flies at about 140 mph when we’re not racing, just cruising. Airliners see speeds of 500-560 mph. 

Question: How high can you fly? 

Answer: Like speeds, altitude capabilities vary. Small, single-engine planes generally are able to climb to 12,000 to 16,000 feet. Some go higher because they have turbochargers on their engines. 

There are also turboprops, sometimes referred to as jet props and they can climb 25,000 feet to 35,000 feet. Some airliners can climb to 41,000 feet and some corporate jets fly as high as 51,000 feet. The U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 have altitudes that are classified but are believed to be above 100,000 feet. The SR-71 normally operated around 80,000 feet and the crew members donned spacesuits, as do U-2 pilots. 

If you have a question, feel free to email us at

Oct 6, 2015 Ask Away

The Liberty Gazette
Oct 6, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

We thought we’d share our answers to questions we’re often asked about flying, so for the next couple of weeks we’ll pick a few of the most common ones. If you have a question, feel free to email us at

Question 1: Do you need permission to land? This question is usually accompanied by do you have to pay to land?

In the United States an aircraft can legally land anywhere it needs to in the event of an emergency, but there are some rules about non-emergency landing. Of the approximately 30,000 designated landing facilities in this country, only about 5,000 are publicly owned. Many privately owned airports are provided by their owners for public use. For most aircraft, most public use airports are fair game for landing. Reagan National in Washington D.C. requires extra-special permission, and only since 9/11. Military airstrips are, for the most part, off limits to civilian pilots. At other larger airports with control towers such as Bush Intercontinental, Hobby, Ellington and Conroe’s Lone Star Executive, a pilot must radio the tower and receive a clearance to land from the controller. Unless there is a really good reason not to, such as a power outage at the tower (think Chicago last year), a stranded aircraft on the runway, or some other hazard, landing is not going to be denied. If the runway is private-use only, the pilot needs permission from the property owner, just as would be needed before entering your own private property.

The above is only part of the answer however. Non-towered airports such as ours here in Liberty are called "uncontrolled". Technically, landing here does not require even a radio announcement on the local airport frequency. However, it is customary, safe, and best practice to use the radio to announce position and intentions when near an uncontrolled airport.

Fees for landing vary from one airport to another. Large airports and airports in more liberal cities and states tend to be heavier on government-imposed fees. No surprise there. The more business-friendly conservative areas tend to have fewer or no fees attached to landings, however, we do pay excise taxes on fuel. Those tax dollars received are required to be kept separate and used only for airports. Overnight fees are sometimes charged at the biggest airports if an airplane remains more than a few days or a week. For smaller venues though, there is no reason to charge fees, as this would have a negative effect on the business brought in by the utility of an airport. That business just goes elsewhere.

Question 2: What’s that big witch’s hat thing on top of the parking garage at Hobby Airport?

The mysterious and colossal white cone-shaped object that looks like a witch’s hat is a navigation beacon called a Very high frequency – Omni-directional – Radio beacon, or in pilot lingo – VOR. Sometimes co-located with a VOR is a military beacon called a TACAN. Then the acronyms are combined, making VORTAC. You may have noticed the one atop the parking garage at Hobby, but there is another in a field just north of Daisetta. These beacons pepper the landscape and were the primary means of navigation before GPS. They are still a vital part of the national airspace system, providing a backup in the event GPS signals are blocked or turned off.

We’ll have a few more for you next week. Till then, blue skies.

September 28, 2015 Look Better, Live Longer - Buy Our Products

The Liberty Gazette
September 29, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: In the days of the old Wild West, when only birds, bats, insects, and tempers flew, advertising was accomplished by means of handbills, posters, and dramatic presentations. When shady ad agents learned how easy the money came, honesty and trust were not their motivators, as the nation’s spending on advertising went from $3.5 million during the Civil War era to $75 million by the turn of the century.

But because all dark motives come to light, the trust that was lacking in those early days finally came out clean when the agency for Pear’s soap began creating ads that sold trust, more so than soap. The popular Reverend Henry Ward Beecher spoke on the virtues of Pear’s, and sales really bubbled. A few decades later Woodbury’s soap jumped in with a new idea: imply that customers would be sexier and live better lives when bathing with their product.

Printing, though, gave advertising a big boost; print was a life-changer. Before printing, people would buy from local shopkeepers who lived in their communities. With printing came opportunities to advertise and sell longer distances. With these opportunities came the problems of inventory, shipping, and other challenges, not the least of which was literacy.

By the early 20th century General Mills made a desperate attempt to save one of its products from extinction when, on Christmas Eve, 1926, on a radio station in Minneapolis, the first ad with song was aired. Sales of their cereal, Wheaties, skyrocketed, and so did the use of jingles.

The history of advertising has some notables, such as the nephew of Dr. Sigmund Freud, and "the father of spin", Ed Bernays, who convinced women to light their "torches of freedom" (and later claimed he did not know that smoking was dangerous); and Michael Levine, among whose 1,500-plus jingles was the longest-running ever - for Kit-Kat candy. He wrote that one while going up in an elevator just two floors.

When Werner Von Bron and Walt Disney teamed up to promote space exploration, consumer goods found new life by associating with NASA and soon we all drank to be like astronauts and ate Trix cereal promoted by an astro-bunny.

Mike: By the time aviation was ready for advertising, the trend was on focusing on consumer experience rather than the product itself. Airlines began promoting comfort, exotic destinations and speed. In the 1930s Braniff International Airlines advertised its Lockheed Vegas in New York as "The fastest way to the Gulf Coast, only one day." Braniff stayed with this theme as they were the only U.S. carrier to offer trips on the Concorde, albeit for a short time. Airlines advertised heavily on TV with all those sweeping shots of winged steel tubes cruising effortlessly into sunsets. Those advertisements were filmed from a specially outfitted Learjet.

When I was a kid, my cousin would drive me to Santa Ana airport to look at the airplanes on "the lot" where I would dream of one day walking up and buying one. They even had some in a showroom. Brochures for Piper Aircraft showed smiling people waiving at friends as they landed at airports in the Bahamas. 

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s current campaign, "You Can Fly" has sponsored television shows and documentaries. One of the most successful General Aviation airplane ad campaigns has been that of Cirrus Aircraft, whose message to nervous middle-aged non-pilot wives builds trust in safety via their ballistic parachute. The plane with a chute, "just in case," has certainly done more for sales than convincing buyers they'll look good in a Cirrus.

September 22, 2015 Airport Camp-Outs

The Liberty Gazette
September 22, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: We’ve collected ideas over the years that would make Liberty’s airport stand out "on the charts" for pilots seeking unique places to fly and things to do, and have shared those ideas with the city. Mike, the artist in the family, made several pictures of what Google Earth(R) images of our airport might look like in years to come if the recommendations were followed. Some of those ideas have begun to take shape, while others are waiting in the wings. One of them is an airport campground; camping is popular both in and out of the aviation community.

Mike: I did a lot of camping as a kid. When I started flying I found airports that allowed camping, such as Kern Valley Airport in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and Payson Municipal in Arizona’s Zane Grey country under the Mogollon Rim, both of which still have their much loved, much used campgrounds.

Linda: Some smart folks in Arcadia, Florida had a similar idea and have been working to bring it to fruition. To attract more pilots and planes to their little airport, which is about the same size as ours here in Liberty, as a destination in itself rather than just a fuel stop, the Friends of Arcadia Airport have formed a 501(c)(3) corporation and both the city and county have agreed to their plans to develop a three-acre campsite on airport property.

Mike: Grass and weeds are being cleared, places that haven’t been mown in years are receiving a manicure, and the new building permit is making way for a 31’x20’ shade building under which picnic tables will welcome visitors. Trees around the site provide a perfect setting for pitching tents and enjoying the outdoors. The large community fire pit draws guests together for fellowship before retiring to for the evening.

Friends of Arcadia Airport hosted pancake breakfasts and held other fundraising activities. With the help of the local rodeo organization, which has supported them all long, enough money has been raised to get the project started. Each year at rodeo time a big camp-out brings people to the airport, and with shuttle service to the rodeo grounds the entire community benefits. Attendance each of the past three years has increased by 100 percent.

We love a win-win-win. Our thought has always been that campgrounds at the Liberty Airport would be a great draw more for more pilots to not just stop and buy fuel, but come into town and support local businesses. With TVE and Jubilee as attractions, something similar to Arcadia’s success could be accomplished right here in Liberty. The vision is an easy one to see: the city invites guests to land, taxi to a camping spot, and join in the community for a spell. Who knows, with the additional contributions to the local economy we may even see new record auction prices at TVE.

The Friends of Arcadia Airport is willing to share their model plan. With plenty of aviators within reasonable flying distance to support this same idea here, one would have to fumble badly to make it fail. Just ask the people who arrive in the 600 or so airplanes visiting Reklaw in October every year, or those who fly in and camp out at Critters Lodge near Centerville, and you’ll discover this family-friendly activity to be quite popular among aviators.

September 15, 2015 Riding the Thermals

The Liberty Gazette
September 15, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Turning the motor-less plane slowly we searched the rugged desert terrain below, looking for something sometimes difficult to detect by human eye alone. An instrument on the panel helps indicate when we’ve found it – air rising from a sun-baked spot on the ground. We call it a thermal. As we enter this column of air our gradual descent now is transformed to a climb.

Strong thermals are easier to spot as they tend to vacuum up dust, dirt and debris and send it up into the air. During late spring through fall in the southwestern United States these dust devils can extend skyward several hundred feet looking like dust tornadoes. They are signposts for gliders saying, "Here is lift, come and get it." But sometimes they are almost imperceptible and the pilot relies on experience and training to find suitable locations for thermals that will generate enough lift to stay aloft.

On this day nearly twenty years ago I was in the front seat and Jason Stephens, my instructor, rode in the rear seat. Flying professionally, pilots will often seek new challenges in the form of different types of flying to hone their skills and keep fresh perspectives. Soaring in gliders is one way of increasing awareness of energy management and developing a keener sense of meteorology, which we use in our everyday work life. And, it is just plain fun.

We entered a shallow turn, keeping our sailplane as much in the middle of this thermal as possible. We are always on the lookout for other gliders because the lift one discovers may be all there is for miles around and if it is strong, everybody wants some. This day, there were not that many other gliders riding the air waves there in Maricopa, Arizona, but that did not mean we wouldn’t have company. Ours came in the form of a red-tailed hawk that decided not only to share our lift but liked the shady spot it found under our much larger and longer wing. Normally, I find myself dodging birds, not flying formation with them.

A magnificent hawk, with broad round wings and short, wide tail, flying alongside us, not ten feet away. As I banked in for a turn to keep circling in the updraft, the hawk’s wings deflected and changed shape, the feathers around it’s trailing claws fluttering in the air disturbed by our passing through it. The awesome bird stayed almost precisely the same distance from our wing at all times. I wish Go-Pro cameras existed then, but the vivid image is burned into my memory.

After a few minutes of this Jason suggested that we gently turn away from the thermal, warning, "It would be bad karma to hit a hawk." So as carefully as possible I raised the wing away from the magnificent bird and for a moment it followed, then broke in the other direction back toward the lift to resume its post over the wide, open terrain.

No words were uttered as we returned to the airport. The sound of air swirling about the canopy and fuselage afforded us space, insulation from human noise, as we marveled in reverent awe having soared in formation with this mighty bird of prey, as though it had welcomed us as comrades.

I picked my touchdown spot and placed the single tire right on it, making one of my best landings in a glider to date.

September 8, 2015 Tweeting 1903

The Liberty Gazette
September 8, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Imagine if there was social media on December 17, 1903.

Anchor: Breaking news this morning from the Outer Banks, an attempt at flying a machine has been successful. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all exploding with the news. Orville Wright, the man who made this first flight has tweeted, "First flight 20 ft up, 120 ft across ground, 12 secs!" We take you now to the scene where reporter Erin Kelly of WVBT has the story. Erin, this is the hottest topic on social media, first flight in an aeroplane, and it’s been accomplished by two bicycle repairmen from Ohio. Can you fill us in on what’s happening there in the sand dunes near Kitty Hawk?

Erin: Good morning. It’s been an exciting day so far, with the first engine-powered manned flight already in the history books. We’re here at Big Kill Devil Hill, just south of Kitty Hawk.

I’m actually surprised at the small crowd here, because this is big news. Now, they definitely had some problems with this first flight, but I did hear them talking just before we went on the air, they’re going to make some repairs and try again… hold on, I think we can get Orville over here for an interview –

Orville, congratulations on this first powered flight! Tell us about it, how did it feel? Was it great sport?

Orville: The exhilaration of flying is too keen, the pleasure too great, for it to be neglected as a sport. This is something my brother and I have been focused on for several years now, this isn’t just a whim, you know. This is a great feeling. We chose the right place and we have ideal conditions today with this wind – it’s perfect!

Erin: You said that the conditions are ideal today, tell us about that, the wind. Is that what makes the aeroplane stay up in the air?

Orville: The airplane stays up because it doesn’t have the time to fall. No, in all seriousness, the wind is blowing about 20, 25 miles an hour. Soon as we slipped the rope the flying machine started moving, probably seven or eight miles an hour, then it just lifted from the track at about the fourth rail. We laid these rails here in the sand dunes so we’d have something firm to guide us along the ground.

Erin: Was it what you thought it would be?

Orville: I had a hard time controlling the front rudder. I think it’s balanced too near the center, so the machine turned and I tried to correct for it but it darted for the ground. We have some repairs to make and then Will is going to take the next flight. I think I was up there about 12 seconds, a little longer, actually, but they didn’t start the watch right away. Hey, I’ve got to go – thanks!

Erin: Well, you heard it, straight from the first man to fly an aircraft with engine power. There’s going to be some amazing news in the days to come, and who knows where this discovery may take us?

Anchor: Thanks, Erin. Exciting times. We’ve got a picture up now from Instagram, from a JT Daniels and folks, you can see it right there, this flying ship is above the ground. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll have more for you as this story develops. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

September 1, 2015 You don't have to be a pilot to find adventure

The Liberty Gazette
September 1, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Flying affords a perspective of the world like nothing else, from understanding gained by learning to fly as well as from each time one defies gravity. This is why our story bank is always full, and the adventures keep coming.

Last week in this space we told you a bit about Air Journey, an outfit that offers exciting excursion packages for pilots. But we’d like to be all-inclusive and let you know about an inspiring new company based in Austin called The Avid Traveler. You don’t have to be a pilot to find adventure.

Linda: The concept is unique and the service will exceed expectations, something I know because I know the company founder.

My dear friend Michael Rose, an aerospace engineer and the kind of guy you would want to claim as part of your own family, has traveled the world and now uses his expertise along with that of his business partner, Collin Nace, to make dream vacations happen.

Michael’s enthusiasm for this new venture comes from the combination of his love for travel, for helping people, and for personal growth. He believes wholeheartedly that the main reason so many people haven’t traveled much is due to: 1) the mistaken idea that a dream trip is probably too expensive, and 2) the greed that infects the travel industry confirming that idea.

He knows that feeling, being afraid he couldn’t afford to visit all the places he wanted to – until he began working at finding ways to make it happen (and without buying the cheapest seats on the worst airlines and sleeping in low budget motels).

He doesn’t want his new business to be mistaken for a travel agency. What sets The Avid Traveler apart: passion, experience, affordability, relationship, and trips that are tailored to each individual client’s interests and goals.

The company promises to turn impossible dreams into savory memories relished for years to come.

Knowing Michael, he finds success because he has such class and style that every customer feels as though they are his sole client. Having worked closely with him for a couple of years, I know he is about more than customer service; his passion fosters his commitment to customers, one that finds its motivation from the heart of The Avid Traveler.

"It’s not about a vacation packaged the same for everyone, we’re here to help people push their boundaries, to get out there and see, taste, live their dream experience. It’s in our name."

Michael’s first travel destination on his own, as an adult, changed his life. "It was in Italy that I realized that the world is more than Austin, more than Texas, more than the U.S., that people are different, and that experiencing other cultures and mindsets and ways of life affects me intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Travel grows us. No one is the same when returning from their first big adventure." He encourages people to challenge their own comfort level, to not live an idle life in a world that consistently offers so many excuses to do the opposite.

What’s been holding you back? If you think you can’t get more out of life, start a conversation with Michael and let him show you what’s possible.

Bring your ideas and requirements to The Avid Traveler, whether a limited budget, a timeline, or, "I've got 15 days and I want to see Europe!" Michael’s team will make it happen.

No more excuses – I dare you to dream big – with help from The Avid Traveler.

August 25, 2015 Story Generator

The Liberty Gazette
August 25, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Why we fly – ask any pilot and you’ll hear "freedom", "independence", and "challenge". Flying affords a perspective of the world like nothing else, from understanding gained by learning to fly as well as from each moment we defy gravity. This is why the story bank is always full, and the good adventures keep coming.

Among the quests we haven’t shared in this space before are those organized by Air Journey, a company that has for over 15 years created exciting trips for those who fly themselves.

Offering group voyages to every continent, Air Journey’s calendar is full of choices for every pilot traveler. Coming up in November is their annual Bahamas Treasure Hunt, a popular package they’ve offered for years. They ask the aviator to release the inner pirate for a nine-day pursuit through the Out Islands of the Bahamas, to search for clues and enjoy the sun, sea, and relaxing beaches. Activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, and kayaking are included, for well-rounded interests while the airplane is parked. The flying will take pilots and their passengers island hopping a total of 890 nautical miles to Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, Eleuthera Islands, Staniel Cay, Crooked Island, and Cat Island.

Mike: Those who register for the event will meet in North Palm Beach, Florida for a safety briefing to cover weather, details of the treasure hunt and how to collect clues.

During the trip the group will have the opportunity to explore secret coves of 17th century Caribbean pirates or visit "quaint 18th century fishing villages first settled during the Revolutionary War by Loyalists who fled to Abaco and the other Islands of The Bahamas." A visit to the historic settlement of New Plymouth offers the experience of a quiet 18th century village by the sea, its museums, sculpture garden, shops, restaurants and gingerbread homes "that remind one of a turn-of-the-century village of the New England coast." And that only covers the first two days. Plenty more choices of activity or leisure are available the entire trip, including feeding swimming pigs and seeing flamingos.

Reading the itinerary, the one sentence that is repeated at the close of each day is: "We’ll meet for a game of cards before dinner." I suspect these nightly card games will hold some clues for the treasure hunt. The trip culminates with a costume party and farewell barbeque dinner – pirate style. Someday, I’d like to take that trip.

Linda: The folks at Air Journey offer several different escorted excursions with this goal in mind: to expand the pilot-aircraft owner’s horizons, providing self-flying group travel experiences to over 100 countries, and even an around-the-world trip. Among their other scheduled journeys over the next year are a Caribbean golf-flying tour in March, and one that is intriguing to me, the Journey to Africa, August through October next year. The Africa trip will depart Quebec City, travel through Europe, then on to Africa. The jaunt includes a safari and 17 countries to visit while traveling 18,655 nautical miles. Guests will, they promise, collect thousands of memories, and to me that means thousands more stories.

If you know someone who flies, do them a favor and suggest a trip with Air Journey, or – what a priceless gift idea. In addition to escorted, pre-planned journeys, the company offers concierge journeys – customized trips they’ll help you create, "Your destinations, your dates, your budget."

If you like this idea but you’re not a pilot, we’ll have a suggestion for you next week.

August 18, 2015 Beyond the Zenith

The Liberty Gazette
August 18, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: If you read this space last week you’ll recall my pondering the irony of the question of the future of aviation considered by our young teenage aviation students, in juxtapose to two high ranking Naval officers publicly debating the same question in 1928. How could either have imagined such a world where that was even a question? One group looking back, one group looking forward, and in the middle came the Golden Age of Aviation.

It was the magazine, The Forum, which gave print to the debate. After British Royal Navy Chief, Captain Alfred Dewar finally saved his pen from further scribbles forecasting that airplanes could never contend with ships and trains, offering an important role in transport; next up was United States Navy Admiral Richard Byrd.

The admirable Admiral Byrd was ready for the dog fight and met Dewar head on, quill to quill, saying, "flying has a future as yet undreamed of".

Byrd knew this: We’re Americans, by golly, and we innovate! But he also acknowledged that flying had to become safer before it could be a serious contender in the transportation ring. By 1910, he observed, "automobile races were a public scandal in the deaths they caused," but by 1928, "the motor car is accepted as a safe conveyance for women and children as well as racing drivers." This "safety" argument against an industry in its infancy was the same faulty logic, he disputed, which condemned the railway and horseless carriage, only to see a nation become dependent on them.

Imagine Tweeting these words in 1839, "The railway cannot succeed because of two San Diego definite shortcomings: first it cannot go uphill, and second, not enough people want to go somewhere in a hurry to make it pay." Byrd would have found them amusing, as he did also find early naysayers of the car in 1897: "The automobile cannot possibly succeed because of two inherent defects: first, its engine will always be so unreliable that the average citizen will not tolerate the delay and inconvenience sure to arise; and second, there will never be sufficient funds to build level roads permitting travel at high speed."

The crux of Byrd’s argument wasn’t with those who focused on physical limitations. The jet engine hadn’t yet been invented, so their ideas were still small. Instead, they would be financial. He patriotically pointed out the difference between our European counterparts where government subsidies are a way of life, and American ingenuity and capitalism. "This very point is a fine feather in the cap of the American businessman. He is of fighting stock that does not tolerate paternalism."

Airplane manufacturers, he proclaimed, wouldn’t keep building products, and airlines wouldn’t keep providing services that weren’t profitable. Nope, no government money would be accepted by proud, hardworking Americans. "The greatest progress – and the development that will mean most to aviation – must come from banking support." Noting progress in this area, Byrd said confidently, "When American business joins hands with American aviation, the future of flying is assured."

Mike: That the American airline companies have indeed taken subsidies in the past is the fault of over-regulation and greedy litigation. Strip away those unnecessary evils and examine the real costs of operating an airplane and we see that Admirable Byrd’s assertions still hold true.

August 11, 2015 Slaves of the Weather

The Liberty Gazette
August 11, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda : Seven young girls sat in a row at the long table in one of the rooms of the historic 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby Airport. Representing three different girls’ scouting groups, and one from OBAP (Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals), the 13-17 year olds had come to spend their Saturday at Future Female Aviators, hosted by the museum. Mike and I had prepared our presentations, an introduction and overview of aviation, and a section on reading aeronautical charts. These girls are amazing! Smart, talented, interesting, attentive, and fun, they were born in an era where the doubt, if there be any, as to the future of commercial aviation, is largely due to the pollution of lawyers, politicians, and the TSA. And drones. But they know nothing of the dark side yet.

How silly it might seem to them if they were to read the debate between British Royal Navy Chief, Captain Alfred Dewar, and United States Navy Admiral Richard Byrd that addressed the question of whether there was any future for aviation, and specifically for commercializing aviation. How could these girls even imagine such a world where that was the question?

When Isaac Leopold Rice founded The Forum in 1885, the magazine that would rank as one of the most popular rags of its 65-year run, competing against Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine, he couldn’t have known that specific debate would be played out in his publication 43 years later. How could he even imagine such a world where that was the question?

Rice’s periodical gave space to social and political commentary, fluctuating over the years as the tides of consumer interest would change, with some leanings toward poetry and short fiction for a time. But this issue, August of 1928, came out the year after Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean in the "Spirit of St. Louis", making this debate a perfect fit for his journal.

The Brit, Captain Dewar, presented that the airplane could never deliver reliable, efficient transport and would always be, at it’s very best, "an auxiliary to sea transport." Consumers, he thought, wouldn’t go for the high price of air travel. He’d be blown away by consumers’ reactions to today’s electronic devices. But then again, he totally nailed the Apple crowd: "Every new instrument of man’s invention attracts around it a ring of ardent passionate enthusiasts who paint its future in roseate optimistic hues."

Dewar perceived the economic limitations equal to the limits of natural law, e.g., gravity. That planes must be able to lift their weight plus their load he said was a staggering handicap because ships and trains only had to rely on their engines for propulsion, whereas airplanes were "slaves of the weather" that would have some place in our lives, but not an important place. So the pioneering flights such as Lindbergh’s were, to Dewar, "merely a token of the stern limitations which beset them."

"There is no large and growing future for commercial aviation," he insisted, "because the future will never be much more than the present."

But consider this: Dewar’s own visionary limitations were his real issue. His own myopic handicap limited him to consider only 1,155 horsepower, capable of traveling two hundred miles with fourteen passengers and seven hundred pounds of freight: approximately three pounds of paying load to the horsepower. No wonder he believed air travel was inferior and would never be more than an emergency or supplementary means of movement. His opponents he labeled partisans and the airplane, he said, was well within sight of its zenith; it would carry mail and "those few passengers whom necessity impels to save time at the expense of comfort." Well, he got that last part right at least, when it comes to airlines.

And then there’s Admiral Byrd’s rebuttal. We’ll have that for you next week, but here’s a tease: "When American business joins hands with American aviation, the future of flying is assured." Til then, blue skies.

August 4, 2015 A dirigible, by any other name

Liberty Gazette
August 4, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike:  We were flying circuits around the traffic pattern on the north side of Long Beach Daugherty Field. My student, Paul, was learning to land his wife’s Piper Cherokee from the right seat; he wasn’t a licensed pilot, but wanted to know how, just in case he might have to land it someday. Suddenly the controller in the tower called out traffic to us, telling us to watch out for two Goodyear blimps. I’d been treated to sightings of a Goodyear blimp in both day and nighttime views, and have childhood memories of it’s moving lights displaying advertisements overhead in the night sky, when I’d listen to whirring, humming engines, such a distinct sound that I knew what it was before I stepped outside and looked up. But now, blimp formation flying, that wasn’t something I’d seen before. This was something special for the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Three Goodyear blimps share the appearance duties throughout North America; one based in Florida, one in California and one at the company’s headquarters in Akron, Ohio – that’s the one that used to be kept in Spring, Texas – covering sporting events and serving as a billboard adrift.

The ground crew doesn’t have much difficulty keeping up with its 50 mph progress. One blimp pilot who was flying cross-county happened upon a Little League game in a small town 1,000 feet below. The pilot stopped the engines right overhead and shouted down at the players asking them the score.

Linda: In my hometown, the rumble of the blimp’s Lycoming engines signaled the coming of auto racing, all month long, at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I, too, knew even before spying it in the sky that it had come to be part of the tradition and heartbeat of Indy in May. Upon moving to this part of the country I felt a little bit of the familiar had been waiting here to greet me when I first saw that blimp tethered at its base along I-45.

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has been sailing blimps since 1928, and from the beginning, until 1987 each one has been named after America’s Cup champion yachts. Since then, the company has polled the public for names on new models, the latest of which has been dubbed Wingfoot One. With a top speed of 70 mph it’s a real hot rod.

Mike: During the launch ground crew members wrestle with the ship, pulling it from its mooring mast and turning it into the wind. Then they hoist the pudgy thing shoulder high and slam it back onto the ground. The single over-sized and over-inflated tire works like one of those bouncy balls we hopped along on as kids, springing it back into the air. The pilot pours the coals to its engines and pitches the nose up so high you think it will slide back onto its tail, but gravity is overcome, although ascent seems painfully slow.

Blimps belong to a category of aircraft called Airships, characterized by lighter-than-air gas that keeps them aloft. Some airships have a ridged frame, as did the Hindenburg. Those are called dirigibles. The old blimps of our growing years did not have a framework in them, but the new ones have semi-ridged frames, so technically they are not really blimps. However, it appears Goodyear still wants to call it a blimp, and that’s understandable. Saying "Goodyear Dirigible" sounds like a tire going over small, rattling speed bumps.

July 28, 2015 Who's Minding the Store?

Liberty Gazette
July 28, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: You may remember news reports a few months ago when Houston businessman Edd Hendee made a successful emergency landing in the grass alongside U.S. 59 near Diboll, after taking off from the Angelina County Airport. He had to land suddenly because both engines of his piston twin engine Cessna 421B had quit. Cause of engine failure: jet fuel instead of AvGas, or 100 Low Lead, was pumped into his tanks. Piston engines don’t run on jet fuel.

While Edd had injury to his vertebrae, from the reports it sounds as though he is going to be fine. This brings up a whole host of topics very important to the City of Liberty, owner of airport property and fuel tanks, and seller of fuel here. Two critical items are sumping the fuel tanks daily to test and rid them of contaminants and water (danger), and prohibiting the sale of AvGas for other than aircraft (hefty federal fines).

Mike: Fuel quality is a serious concern for aviators. Hydrocarbon fuels deteriorate over time, but to get the most life out of them frequent tank and fuel inspections are necessary. Fuel tanks are vented and with expansion and contraction air moves in and out of the tank. During our humid days vapors enter the tank, condensing in the evening and settling into the fuel. Since water is heavier than the fuel, it pools at the bottom of the tank.

Whether in a large airport tank or smaller airplane tank, the physics are the same. Pre-flight inspections include sampling fuel from the aircraft. Low points in airplane fuel tanks, called sumps, collect the water which we remove through drains. If not drained regularly water and sludge build up, get into the engine, and eventually cause it to seize. Likewise, if airport fuel tanks are not drained regularly – recommended daily – the same outcome can be expected, and then the seller of that fuel is flirting with disastrous liability for negligence by selling contaminated fuel, which can cause a life threatening situation.

Microbes live in just about all fuels; they love jet fuel. These bugs are attracted to the water at the bottom of the tank where they reproduce incredibly fast. Unchecked, they can quickly damage the filtration system, plug filters, and eat the walls of the tank – even steel airport storage tanks. Fuel additives for airplanes combat microbial growth but those responsible for fuel sold at an airport must practice proper handling of the fuel at delivery, drain and test storage tanks daily to insure tainted fuel does not enter aircraft fuel tanks. Testing begins after water and contaminants settle, and no aircraft should be fueled until testing is done. This is something a professional airport manager knows, and something Jose Doblado performed daily at the Liberty Municipal Airport.

Linda: There are also federal regulations regarding the sale, purchase, and use of AvGas in vehicles other than aircraft. Both the EPA and taxing authorities care who buys AvGas, and where that fuel goes, putting some responsibility on the seller. The EPA is interested because AvGas contains lead; and if purchased in place of auto gas then the highway department is out that tax money.

Penalties for selling, purchasing, or using AvGas in other than an aircraft engine can be as much as $25,000 for every day of violation, plus the amount of economic benefit or savings resulting from the violation. Failing to furnish information or conduct required tests can bring penalties on the same scale.

We hope that even without Jose looking out for our airport’s best interest, that the city has assigned the daily fuel sumping and testing task to someone, and that AvGas isn’t being sold illegally.

July 21, 2015 BD

The Liberty Gazette
July 21, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: It’s that time of year again: AirVenture, the world’s largest fly-in, and the world’s largest convention of any kind. Thousands of aircraft are descending on the small city of Oshkosh this week, making the air traffic control tower in the little central Wisconsin town the busiest control tower in the world – for one week.

We didn’t have time to make the trip this year, but there will be other planes similar to ours, the Grumman Cheetah, and its kin. There will be small home-built airplanes and helicopters, timeless warbirds, the Flying Hospital and military and airline planes, and balloons and ultralights, and fast planes and slow planes. There will be the ones that race the AirVenture Cup in excess of 325 mph, and the Piper Cubs with no doors and no radios yet just as at home in the sky as any airplane ever conceived; as at home in the blue yonder as the clouds that dot the canvas.

Every year at AirVenture the Bede Aircraft Company has planes on display, and plans for sale so you can build your own. The little jet that looks like a toy is their most famous model, the BD-5J, one of the stars of a James Bond movie.

Remember a 007 film where a little jet landing on a road takes the next exit and coasts to a gas station?

Corkey Fornof, noted Hollywood action pilot, built and flew the BD-5J in that movie. We met Corkey several years ago, and heard the rest of the story of that 007 scene. Unreal as it seems, the events that took place in the Bond film were written into the script when Corkey shared his own real life adventures with the producers.

Like the lead character, Fornof had faced an emergency landing, the only safe place to land being a highway right below him. He touched down on the road, veered off an exit ramp and coasted right up to a gas station pump.

Linda: Fornof has been a spokesperson for Bede Aircraft and for LoPresti, a company that makes speed modifications, some of which are installed on The Elyiminator. When I ran into Corkey again at AirVenture a couple of years ago I thanked him for painting “Yippee!” across the bottom of his bright yellow Lo Presti Fury, because it had inspired me to convince Mike to paint “STUCK IN TRAFFIC?” across the bottom of our plane, and for that, Corkey kissed my hand.

But there’s much to say about the engineer who designed the celebrity jet. Jim Bede’s designs became the popular airplanes of the Grumman and American Aircraft companies, starting with the Yankee, his original BD-1. They were fast, affordable planes that any private pilot could fly. A few generations of Grumman models later, the Cheetah took over the spotlight. And although Jim Bede wasn’t directly involved in creating the Cheetah, it bears the genealogy of its ancestor, the BD-1.

It’s that time of year again, AirVenture, the world’s largest fly-in, and the world’s largest convention of any kind. But this time Jim Bede isn’t be there. Jim passed away last week. He was 82.

As thousands of aircraft are descending on the small city of Oshkosh this week, Corkey’s famous little jet is up for sale. I think the new buyers should celebrate by landing on a highway (closed to traffic, of course), rolling down an exit ramp, and coasting to a gas station, just for the thrill of it, with a nod to Jim and Corkey.

July 14, 2015 The Key to a Good Landing

The Liberty Gazette
July 14, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: I called up Key Tower for landing clearance. After three hours of flying from Greenwood, South Carolina this airport in Meridian, Mississippi would be a good fuel stop. The FBO’s air conditioning is a welcoming relief from the sweltering heat. We guzzled some complimentary bottled water and re-energized with complimentary fresh fruit before continuing our journey home. Key Field lives up to its reputation.

In 1935, as the Great Depression continued, Meridian Municipal Airport faced possible extinction at the hands of city officials who did not recognize its value. But brothers Al and Fred Key relocated their flying business there and began a publicity campaign to bring wide-spread recognition to the community and its airport.

On June 4, 1935 the brothers took off in a Curtiss Robin monoplane named Ole Miss. The plane was modified for long duration flight; 27 days later Ole Miss’ wheels once again touched the pavement at Meridian Municipal. To break an endurance flight record they didn't have to fly very far, they just had to stay aloft, which they did, officially, for 653 hours and 34 minutes, consuming 6,000 gallons of fuel. How, in 1935, they succeeded without sophisticated technology is a testament to ingenuity and the daring aerial feats performed during their flight.

Al would climb the airplane really high, then shut down the engine completely, keeping the nose pitched up to slow the airplane enough to stop the propeller.

With the prop stopped he would gently point the nose back down - just a little bit - in order to let the airplane become a glider. As a glider, air was still moving over the wings, creating lift, so Al could still control it.

Via a catwalk on each side, Fred would then climb out of the cockpit, and up to the engine to change spark plugs and add oil and then refuel. Upon Fred's return to his seat Al would dive the airplane to get enough wind to flow through the propeller to cause it to turn again, reintroduce fuel, and start up the engine, resuming powered flight.

Back then a wing walker would hand five gallon gas cans from one plane to a wing walker on another, which was dangerous enough, but using funnels also made gasoline spill into the airstream. The invention of a flexible probe that automatically shut-off gas flow if it was pulled out of the gas tank made fuel transfers a little easier.

The Flying Keys’ stunt worked. It not only saved the airport but brought about increased public confidence in air travel. Shortly after their flight Meridian Municipal was renamed Key Field in their honor, and Ole Miss was put on permanent display in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

In 1949 four intrepid souls flew an airplane they named "The City of Yuma" for 47 days without landing - and for the same reason: to save that city’s airport business. Later in 1959 a pilot remained aloft over Las Vegas for almost 65 days.

Key Field today is the major employer in Meridian. Piper Cubs, military training jets and Lockheed C-130 regularly use the 10,000 and 5,000 foot long runways. There is a wonderful FBO with really nice people who go out of their way to make pilots feel welcome. And they have pretty cheap fuel.

July 7, 2015 Must be Paris

The Liberty Gazette
July 7, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Mike: Almost midnight, the clouds glow, illuminated by city lights hidden beneath them. The radio crackles as the air traffic controller issues instructions. His English is clear, though his accent attests that it is not his primary language. Turn right to this heading, then left to another, then right again. We are told to descend into the clouds and soon they envelope us.

Popping out underneath the overcast I behold the city for the first time. Straight ahead, brilliant lights strobe off the Eiffel Tower. The flashing billboard welcomes me to Paris even as I am still airborne.

On final approach I wonder whether Charles Lindberg, as tired as he was at the end of his trans-Atlantic flight, had a chance to tour the city as we are. The controller has us maneuver around the big international airline airport, Charles de Gaulle, and then clears us to land at historic Le Bourget Airport, the same airport at which Lindberg landed. This time however, there are not 300,000 Parisians in riotous celebration of our arrival. The only person meeting our aircraft as we park is our handling agent.

That was ten year ago. I’ve been to Paris a few times since and seen much of the city. I have even called Linda from the top of the Eiffel Tower. My last trip there was to teach at my company’s Paris location right at Le Bourget. Still on my to-do list: attend the Paris Air Show.

Established in 1909, the week-long Paris Air Show is the longest running air show in the world. It is held every other year with an attendance of over 350,000. Billion dollar deals are made at the airshow between aircraft manufactures, airlines, and military from around the world. Most airshows have performers flying aerial demonstration routines but few offer the variety this one does.

This year the airshow lineup included a flight demonstration in the Airbus 380 that showed what the airliner could do in capable hands. The giant airplane launched on takeoff into a near vertical climb, and then maneuvered presenting its graceful lines and agility. At a previous airshow the Boeing Company had shown off their equally new 787 Dreamliner, a demonstration that left Airbus officials red-faced. This was their year to flaunt their stuff. Of course, no passengers were on board any of these flights, only test pilots.

Eccentric flight routines were part of the predecessor to the Paris Air Show when Wilbur and Orville demonstrated their Wright Flyer to an astonished crowd of Frenchmen. They flew around a stadium making controlled turns for 11 minutes. Previous flights were straight line courses that lasted little more than 30 seconds. Spectators had expected to see the French pilots take top honors but instead stood cheering each time the Wright Flyer performed, its last flight there lasting nearly an hour.

Unconventional routines lived on when Alvin M. "Tex" Johnston brought airliners to the aerial stage, setting the standard in 1955. He performed a barrel roll with a Boeing 707 in front of a crowd of airline executives in Washington. The president of Boeing was stunned and fired Tex on the spot, but when purchase orders came in as a result of the demonstration he asked Tex to return. Though he never rolled the 707 again, the crowds at the Paris Air Show would have loved it.

June 30, 2015 Mom's Museum

The Liberty Gazette
June 30, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: My mother stepped off the jet way and made her way through the airport maze where I was waiting eagerly to greet her.

"How was your flight?" I asked. Everyone always asks that first.

Mom isn’t a fan of regional airlines. She calls them "small planes". Funny, she’s flown with me in our plane, which is significantly smaller than a regional airliner. I think she is more comfortable in our four-seater simply because she’s with me, or us, however the case may be.

"The whole plane shakes and rattles," she answered with the disgust that would have made the CEO of that airline shrink into nothingness had he or she been Mom’s child. And who could blame her? The overhead bins chattered annoyingly and shuddered the whole trip, she said, and she could feel the plane’s engine vibrations right through her seat, as though she were the gremlin riding outside on the jet’s wings in that 1963 episode of Twilight Zone.

"What were you flying?" I asked, hoping to find a way to explain it to her satisfaction. After all, Mom likes to be curious – she says the cure for boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure for curiosity – and would, I presumed, most certainly have listened to the passenger briefing and looked at the safety card in the seatback on front of her. There on the card she would have seen what kind of plane she was in; during the briefing she would have heard the flight attendant mention the make and model.

She probably did do those things, read and listen, because Mom likes to learn things. What she didn’t do though was remember the alpha-numeric sequence that identified her carriage. She may have heard something like EMB145 that day, or B737-700 on another flight another day. But to her those are just meaningless sets of letters and numbers that are only important for the pilots to know. And probably the mechanics, too.

"It was the kind of plane that has those wings that bend upward at the ends," she replied, pushing her arms slightly outward, bending back at the wrists with her palms faced away from her.

"Winglets," I replied. "Those are winglets, and they are on a lot of different kinds of airplanes." As the words came out I worried that I might have sounded condescending, which would be a horrible way to treat my mom. "They help aerodynamically and the result is fuel conservation," I hurried to add in a soft tone in case she might be thinking my last words were a bit snippy. I smiled. "But most people don’t even notice them."

My mom is smart, and she’s not a pilot or engineer, so these aren’t the kinds of things she would have come across. Nor are the purposeful design of winglets anything she likely remembers today, because like alpha-numeric airplane model codes, none of that is what she’s retaining for that "someday" that might happen, when, if, she ever loses mobility and can no longer go out for adventures of her own.

"My mind is my museum," she told me several years ago, "and I am collecting beautiful memories for my museum so that one day if that is all I have, I will have plenty."

I am certain winglets won’t make the cut in Mom’s museum, and I am just as certain that among the thousands of beautiful things there will be poetry and song, laughter and friends, walks with dogs, sunshine, flowers, pearls, and family. And maybe the closest thing to winglets will be a lovely flowing gown she once wore while standing in a Spring breeze.

June 23, 2015 City of Liberty Airport Manager moving to Panama (Feature article)

The Liberty Gazette
June 23, 2015

by Linda Street-Ely

Two of Liberty’s most gifted community leaders, airport manager Jose Doblado and his wife Debbie Mabery, have said their good-byes and headed south, to their new home in Panama. Jose’s shoes will be big ones to fill, as evidenced by his loyal service to Liberty, and recognized by many for his dedication, including Texas Southern University, College of Science, which awarded Mr. Doblado this year with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

In early 2012, Jose Doblado, then a new graduate from TSU’s Aviation Management degree program, accepted the position as the new airport manager for the Liberty Municipal Airport. His goal was to revitalize and upgrade the 140-acre Liberty Municipal Airport, a goal shared by the Texas Department of Transportation, which holds the purse strings for all aviation grant funding on both the state and federal levels.

A few accomplishments.
As manager, Jose oversaw the $700,000 construction project of twenty T-hangars, several ramp improvements, security fencing, and terminal updates. He also refurbished two 12,000-gallon fuel systems purchased for the airport. Now, as a result of Jose’s work, income from hangar rent and one of the ground leases should be $241,200 per year when all hangars are occupied, plus the income from another land lease on a privately owned hangar. That’s a staggeringly successful jump from the receivable $7,920 of just three years ago. Under Jose’s management, average monthly fuel sales increased from $5,200 to $17,000, another testament to his hard work.

Services available, number and quality of hangars, and the number of take-offs and landings at any given airport in Texas are some of the important measurements used by the TxDOT in awarding grant funding. That’s why the building and renovating, the fuel tanks, the numbers, are all significant. During the past three years, Jose has nearly tripled the number of based aircraft, from nine to thirty-four, and increased airport traffic by providing clean, safe facilities and personal service.

Not all municipal airports can claim the level of expertise which Liberty has received from Mr. Doblado, who minimized airport expenditures by completing most maintenance work on fuel systems, facilities, and equipment himself, and using the services of city employees instead of outside contractors, saving city taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Volunteers have been eager to step in and help, too, thanks, they say, to the friendly and welcoming nature of the man who came to help make things better for everyone.

Building an image.
Visiting pilots and based pilots alike have raved about the level of customer service and attention to the airport since Mr. Doblado came to Liberty – people have come here for a reason, and that reason is Jose. As manager, he has hosted fly-in events and children’s tours and mentored three Texas Southern University seniors who completed their aviation degree program internships at the airport.

Repeat customers have been coming from all over the country to buy fuel here – meaning they spend money in Liberty, contribute to the local economy, and do not require any on-going services such as schools, hospital, or library. They land, hand over money, and then leave. And for the last three years they have received a warm welcome as they entered Liberty’s front door to the world.

National recognition.
His efforts have been recognized across the state, and nationally, as well wishes poured in from all over. William Gunn, who worked with Jose to complete an airspace study for an existing hangar on the airport, commented that, "On a site visit to Liberty, it was a pleasure to meet Jose and his wife. The service I received to fuel my aircraft and use the terminal building for my short visit was excellent; it was obvious Jose was proud of his position and was willing to assist in any way."

As a member of the TxDOT Aviation Division, Mr. Gunn says he is "lucky to visit many of the general aviation airports in Texas. Liberty certainly stands out as one of the excellent ones in the state thanks to Jose’s dedication. Any pilot who looks at the comments placed on the web site will see the exceptional number of positive statements made about Liberty and the service Jose has provided. I am sorry to see the Liberty airport lose his services but wish him and his family well."

Yasmina Platt, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the largest aviation organization in the world, offered her thoughts as well. "Jose has done an great job with the Liberty Municipal Airport in such a short period of time, and with relatively few resources. He will be an important asset wherever he goes, and the aviation industry is fortunate to have him as a friend and supporter. We hope Liberty will continue the momentum Jose brought to the airport."

The locals who have found a good friend in Mr. Doblado say that in the relatively short time he’s been in Liberty he developed positive relationships in the aviation community and improved the image of airport on a nationwide scale by promoting safety and providing consistent and friendly customer service to all.

Getting personal.
Jose and Debbie even furnished the city’s airport terminal building at their own expense, so that Liberty could have the best possible facilities to offer visitors to our city. It’s been important to the couple to represent their hometown to visitors and neighbors alike in the most friendly and professional manner. As Debbie reflects, "I have really enjoyed volunteering for the past three years at the airport. You never know what the wind will blow in each day. However, the best part has been the people of Liberty. I have met so many kind, interesting and helpful people. The conversations I have had and the people I have met will always be a part of me. I will miss this special place."

For Jose, each day here in Liberty has been filled with unexpected challenges, interesting people, and rewarding moments, and that, he says, is why he enjoys his work. "The hours have been long and the work has been nonstop, but it is all worth it when I see multiple aircraft operating at the same time safely on the field."

He paused to reflect on the day they first saw the airport, and explained that, "Improving the image of Liberty Municipal Airport has brought me great satisfaction because I knew I was adding value to the City of Liberty and Liberty County."

The couple has moved to Panama, in Central America, but before their good-byes, Debbie expressed their hopes and dreams, not only for themselves, but for Liberty as well. "Jose and I want to be closer to his son and start a new adventure in our life. Jose will probably continue his career in aviation at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. I plan to volunteer and write. As for the Liberty airport, it is like our baby, and we hope and pray the next person has even greater passion for this place, and these people, and continues to make great improvements."

June 23, 2015 Greetings, from the Front Door

The Liberty Gazette
June 23, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: The color of a front door is known to convey a certain type of message. A red front door means "welcome" in many cultures, including our own early American tradition, where tired travelers would know the home was a place where they would be welcomed to stop and spend the night or rest. Without color, how can a front door show signs of welcoming?

Often claiming space on this page are the words, "An airport is a community’s front door." Nothing could be more true than to say that Liberty has enjoyed the benefits of having Jose Doblado and Debbie Mabery as caretakers of our front door for the past three years.

The importance of the front door is understood throughout the country. The Robertson County Chamber of Commerce touts their airport as serving industry, calling it "our ‘front door’ one of the best in the state of Tennessee." When folks in Hall County, Nebraska committed to improving their airport, they gave it a new identity: "It’s becoming a real front door of Grand Island." In small towns and big ones all over the country there are airports, and they are there even for people who don’t fly.

You can search the archives of this column at, for stories about how airports create jobs and income, save lives, help enforce laws, and provide a destination for passengers, freight, and potential business investments. Our very own Liberty Municipal Airport, with its humble beginnings as a grass strip built by Benny Rusk and Earl Atkins is today one of our city’s principal resources because what the airport does best is serve people who don’t fly.

The complex study commissioned every few years by the Texas Department of Transportation lists important facts about economic impact of public-use airports in the state. Analysis is made considering operating characteristics, such as airport employment, and take-offs and landings, as well as population density. Key operating expenditure estimates on a per-flight operation basis is then calculated to provide additional data, with a multiplier figured in to come up with the economic impact the airport has. While the figures that will reflect the tremendous contributions of Jose and Debbie are yet to be published, before they came to Liberty the airport was generating approximately $1.4 million in economic activity. No doubt we will see a sharp rise in that figure when the same analysis is made for the years 2012 to 2015.

Your airport, which Jose Doblado has managed, and Debbie Mabery has volunteered countless hours to improve can be a key factor in the decision of business leaders – those who provide valuable local employment – to locate in the area. As a vital part of our local economy, this piece of land is the first impression of the city when a prospective industry official lands, enters the terminal building, and is greeted by someone. The next person to take on this job will likewise represent the City of Liberty; will be that face that greets people at the "front door". That person will need to work with TxDOT and the FAA, with visiting and local pilots, with vendors of fuel and other services, with repair companies and engineers, with local emergency service providers, and the local communities which the airport serves. The bar has been raised.

We encourage you to visit your airport. You can park just a few steps from the door to the small building, you won’t have to show your government-issued identification, take off your shoes, be X-rayed or patted down. You might even catch some of the hangar tenants hosting an informal get-together, and be invited to see small airplanes up close.

June 16, 2015 To the sun

The Liberty Gazette
June 16, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely 

Mike: The long night is nearly over. On takeoff our Learjet pitches up steeply, rocketing skyward into the firmament. Flying fast in a mountainous region during the darkness before dawn, altitude is a friend. Climbing away from Reno-Tahoe International airport at more than 6,000 feet per minute we clear the rocks handily in a couple minutes. At twelve thousand feet we are cleared to fly direct to our final destination, Salt Lake City. Rolling into a steep left turn eastbound the jet responds like a sports car. Less than 15 minutes from leaving the ramp we are settled in, cruising almost seven miles above the earth at nearly 80 percent the speed of sound.

Stars above still glow but in our ascending view the pitch black sky transitions to hues of dark green and blue to a purple-red then a pale-orange glow as our eyes finally lower to a silvery-white crescent along the curve of the earth. The sun has not yet peaked over the horizon but there is enough light to illuminate the uneven blankets of clouds below and before us. The race is on. Will we reach our beginning descent point before looking full force into the brilliant light, or will we dig out our Ray-Bans so that we can at least see the instrument panel? Moving from winter to spring and summer, the sun wins most of the time, but along the way with the changing weather we are treated to some incredible views of this magnificent wild world that envelops us.

Having spent thousands of hours flying at night I have seen many sunsets and sunrises: sometimes a glorious view, but sometimes painful to look into the fireball for aircraft one cannot see. My first routes took me east with the morning before dawn and west with the night, arriving after sunset. When I was finally assigned a north-south route, I rejoiced.

Once, while flying northbound at 35,000 feet, I watched a rocket launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base as it climbed from the still dark surface of the earth, up into the rising sunlight, crossing that divide between night and day. The bright glowing light of the rocket’s exhaust changed to a fanned-out spray of its vapor trail and then, boom, disintegrated, showering down toward the earth, its gases turning to ice crystals refracting light until it once again dropped into darkness.

When the sun is low on the horizon the jet’s contrails (water vapor exiting the engines) cast a long shadow on the clouds. At the front end of the shadow is a brilliant light caused by the sun’s rays bending around our aircraft. As we get closer to the clouds, in the middle of this halo-like light is the silhouette of our Learjet. This phenomenon is known as The Glory. I stifle an urge to make a UFO report.

And then there is the vague, early morning half-light illuminating the highest peaks in the Cascade Mountain Range as we top out on a flight from Oakland to Seattle. Crisp and clear is each tall peak in the two-hundred-mile visibility. I pull out my thermos and have a cup of joe as the world wakes up.

June 9, 2015 The New Idea

The Liberty Gazette
June 9, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: The first person ever to land an airplane on an aircraft carrier was Eugene Ely, a highly skilled civilian pilot. Eugene had been traveling the air show circuit performing feats of great danger and thrill when he met a Navy captain who was convinced it would be possible to take off and land an airplane on a ship. If there was only one person in the world who would do it, that would be Ely.

First, the take-off. The year was 1910, and the ship, the Birmingham, a cruiser on which a sloping wooden platform was specially built for the experiment. Eugene flew off the ship and landed ashore, triumphant in his ambition in spite of limited vision through splattered goggles onto which ocean water flung from the wooden prop as it splintered when it glanced the water. Amazing that he kept the airplane flying.

Then, the landing. Only six months later the Navy was ready for Eugene to prove their supposition that a plane could also land on a carrier. This time they picked the USS Pennsylvania. Even with Ely’s reputation as a great and natural flyer, and even though an early version of arresting cables was put in place to catch hooks on the bottom of his airplane to stop him from going in the drink off the other end, most onlookers could not fathom a successful outcome to this daring attempt.

Yet successful it was, and the sirens and whistles of all the ships in the San Francisco Bay where this historic event took place celebrated at the birth of Naval Aviation.

For several years this type of flying improved, in terms of airplane design, pilot training and skill, and ship building, making Naval Aviators who landed on carriers a symbol of great flyers. And it all began with a great pilot named Ely.

Mike: About this same time Air Mail was reaching its hey-day, when along came Postmaster General Harry S. New, who had an idea. Air Mail pilots were made up largely of former military pilots, and the job they did was high risk. Surely the pool of masterful skill was already present – to be a pilot in those days was to be on the cutting edge of everything that was simultaneously dangerous and technologically advanced.

New’s idea was to build landing decks atop railroads. This would bring landing planes much closer to the urban business destinations of their passengers, and to ground transportation in the cities.

The Postmaster pointed to New York City’s Bush Terminal (now Industry City, and no relation to the Georges) as a perfect spot to begin putting his plan into action. The railroads that came in to the warehouses at Bush Terminal provided plenty of space in which to build second-story landing strips that did not interfere with the rail traffic. Convenience to depots and business centers would be something over which the public would clamor – according to New.

The landing decks were never built, as far as we can tell, but had New’s plan been successful, we would be able to fly right up and land near Times Square, where Bush Tower, the building that once housed the offices of the Bush Terminal, was just a few steps away.

June 2, 2015 Tugging the C.A.P.E.

The Liberty Gazette
June 2, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: How ‘bout this weather? We blinked and went from drought-induced burn bans to flood rescue scenes. One of the nation’s top aviation weather scientists, Scott Dennstaedt, enlightens us on the sudden departure from parched, to drenched.

Scott: Over the last five or more years a drought of historic proportion has plagued much of Texas. In fact, the National Weather Service reported that 2011 was Texas’ driest year on record. Fast forward to 2015 and that’s hardly been the case over the last few weeks as a good portion of Texas has received more rain in the month of May than usually received throughout the entire year. Rainfall totals reported to exceed 20 inches have been pretty common. And to cap it all off, Monday last week more than 10 inches of rain fell in Houston causing widespread flash flooding in the city. So what caused this extreme rainfall event?

The phenomenon that was responsible for this deluge of rain is called a Mesoscale Convective System or MCS. Similar to hurricanes, they are very seasonal. Occurring mostly east of the Continental Divide, they start out in the Southern Plains and Deep South during the month of May. As the jet stream moves north through the summer months of June and July, they tend to occur in the Central Plains, Middle Mississippi Valley as well as the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Finally, into July and August, they are seen more in the Northern Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley and Upper Great Lakes regions.

These systems are usually severe and can often produce a few tornadoes, dangerous lightning, large and damaging hail and strong straight-line winds. But perhaps the most devastating feature is the torrential rains that can fall from some of these storms since they are often long-lived weather systems. Nevertheless, these convective systems are absolutely necessary since they provide much of the needed rain for agriculture in the Midwest during the summer months.

You’re probably accustomed to thunderstorms occurring in the afternoon. That’s usually the way it happens unless you are dealing with an MCS that will often develop and mature in the overnight hours and persist into the next day. So they are often nocturnal beasts that almost seem to create their own environment to feed on.

In fact, the MCS that flooded Houston last week was born early that morning in western Texas and began as a pair of MCSs. Throughout the morning the two systems tracked east and eventually merged into a single complex of storms setting the stage for a very wet evening in Houston.

This is a very common setting in the Plains where the unique geography of the region favors nocturnal and early morning thunderstorms. During the warm season, this setting promotes a strong flow of low-level moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico, often referred to by meteorologists as a low-level jet stream. Moisture carried by the low-level jet helps to maintain these systems that often begin during daytime hours on the higher terrain in western Texas and Colorado. Because of the low-level supply of moisture, the MCS can mature and persist well into the nighttime hours.

Linda: Other data Scott analyzes include the index of Convective Available Potential Energy, which last week gave signs of high convective rainfall rates that could produce local flash flooding, which is exactly what happened.

May 26, 2015 First Things First

The Liberty Gazette
May 26, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Often Mike narrates his romantic reflections of the life and yearning of a child who would be a pilot. Gill Wilson’s poem "First Things First" is so Mike.

Reverend Wilson was ten years old when the Wright Brothers made their first flight. He became a Presbyterian Minister – and a pilot. As an aviator he founded the Civil Air Patrol and was the first member of the 400,000 member-strong Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

First Things First

By Reverend Gill Robb Wilson (1893-1966)

The boundary lamps were yellow blurs
Against the winter night,
And I had checked the last ship in
And snapped the office light
And paused a while to let the ghosts
Of bygone days and men
Roam down the skies of auld lang syne
As one will now and then…
When fancy set me company
A red checked lad to stand
With questions gleaming in his eyes,
A model in his hand.

He may have been your boy or mine,
I could not clearly see,
But there was no mistaking how
His eyes were questioning me
For answers which all sons must have
Who build their toys in play,
But pow’r them in valiant dreams
And fly them far away;
So down I sat with him beside
There in the dim lit shed,
And with the ghost of better men
To check on me, I said:

"I cannot tell you, Sonny Boy,
The future of this art,
But one thing I can show you, lad,
An old time pilot’s heart;
And you may judge what flight may give
Or hold in store for you
By knowing how true pilots feel
About the work they do;
And only he who dedicates
His life to some ideal
Becomes as one with his dreams
His future will reveal.

Not one of whose wings are dust
Would call his bargain in,
Not one of us would welsh his part
To save his bloomin’ skin,
Not one would wish to walk again
Unless allowed to throw
His heart into the thing he loved
And go as he would go;
Not one would change for gold or pow’r
Nor fun nor love nor fame,
The part he played and price he paid
In making good the game.

And of the living …none, not one,
Regrets the scars he bears,
The sheer uncertainty of plans,
The poverty he shares,
Remitted price for one mistake
That checks a bright career,
The shattered hopes, the scant rewards,
The future never clear:
And of the living …none, not one,
Who truly loves the sky,
Would trade a hundred earthbound hours
For one that he could fly.

If that sleek model in your hand,
Which you have brought to me,
Most represents the things you love,
The thing you want to be,
Then, you will fill your curly head
With knowledge, fact and lore,
For there is no short cut which leads
To aviation’s door;
And only those whose zeal is proved
By patient toil and will
Shall ever have a part to play
Or have a place to fill."

And suddenly the lad was gone
On wings I could not hear;
But from afar off came his voice,
In studied tones and clear,
A prophet’s message simply told
For this is what he said
And why his hand will someday lead
Formations overhead:
"Who wants to fly has got to know:
Now two times two is four:
I’ve got to learn the first things first!"
…I closed the hangar door.